Monday, 30 November 2015

Flying The Sky To Honour My Sami

Natasha shares Sami’s story and how taking part in a fundraising skydive made her feel close to her little butterfly.

3:00am, July 25th, 2008. It was a freezing Canberra morning as I walked (in a fashion) into the Birth Centre at the Canberra Hospital. However I was 41 weeks pregnant, in the last stages of labour and had no notion of how cold it was. I was sweating as I reached the doors and as we got inside I knew I was very close to meeting the baby inside of me. Only 20 minutes later I was holding a beautiful bundle with big round eyes staring up at me. It was a girl, a little sister for our two year old son Jacob. My husband Mark had chosen the name Samantha while I was pregnant, and so she was named Samantha Ava Whiting, our Sami. She hardly cried and spent her first few hours with those big eyes looking around everywhere. I was on a wonderful natural high. After a fantastic birth I had a beautiful, healthy daughter. I was ecstatic and already excitedly planning a butterfly themed bedroom for her in my head. We went home later that day and settled into life with two children and showing off our gorgeous little girl any chance we got.

At 19 days old our little girl seemed to have a cold. She wasn’t feeding well and was sniffling. By early evening, as Mark was holding her, he noticed that she was struggling a bit as she breathed. We decided to take her into the hospital and from there things only got worse. Sami stopped breathing and had to be revived twice. She was intubated and on all sorts of monitors and taken to the NICU. When she was finally stable we were told she had viral meningitis. Over the next two weeks our sick little girl was in the hospital and suffering from migraines from the virus. Even though Sami seemed to get better and become more alert, she wasn’t breathing on her own. An MRI showed that lack of oxygen when she stopped breathing had caused an irreparable hole in her brain stem and she would never breathe on her own again. On the 13th of September at 10am we did what we thought would be the kindest, yet hardest, thing and took out all the tubes and set her free. We were told she would maybe survive half an hour after this, however our brave little girl was stubborn and she gave us the wonderful gift of 24 more hours with her. At 10:30am on the 14th of September, a crisp, sunny Spring day, I held my Sami and Mark and I told her how proud we were of our fighter, how much we loved her, and our brave little butterfly flew away.

Time goes on. Life keeps happening. At the time my daughter died I wasn’t sure how it could. And yet somehow we kept going. We had two more children, Callum and Jensen, and I found ways to honour my daughter’s memory and keep her alive and part of our family. We had organised an annual blanket drive for the NICU for six years and with the help of the local Canberra community had donated several thousand blankets. Unfortunately this had come to an end and I wanted to find a new way to honour my daughter’s memory and was coming up with nothing. Then at the start of July while browsing Facebook I caught sight of a fundraising venture from SANDS, whose page I browsed occasionally. It was coming up Sami’s 7th birthday and I was looking for something to commemorate it, so when I saw this idea I was immediately intrigued. A skydive! I was terrified of heights, but I knew somehow that doing something brave was a fantastic way to honour my daughter. She was, after all, the bravest little girl I knew. I contacted SANDS  immediately to say that I was interested in helping and told my husband what I’d done, feeling a little insane! A few emails back and forth and the fundraising page was set up and a date was set, August 1st. I shared it on Facebook almost daily and had friends and family share the page, I was getting plenty of donations coming in. The big day arrived and unfortunately the weather was terrible so the jump had to be rescheduled to the 29th. Finally THAT big day arrived! Up in the plane I was getting quite shaky and really wondered what I was doing. Then we were ready to jump and there was no more time for thinking. Suddenly I was free-falling at 14,000 feet! I could hardly breathe and was completely petrified…..and then the parachute was up and we were soaring, it was completely amazing. I was flying in the sky and I was close to my beautiful Sami, she was right there with me.

All too soon I was back on the ground and met by my boys and Mark, along with a crowd of supportive family and friends. I think I was shaking from the adrenalin rush for a good few hours afterwards, but it was wonderful and I was so glad I had done it. I had been brave, just like Sami, and had managed to raise $1450 for Sands to help support others like us. I couldn’t think of a better way to honour my precious girl.

Feeling inspired? You too can do the same as Natasha and raise vital funds for Sands. There are skydiving locations around the country – just drop us an email at detailing your location and we can get help you with all the arrangements.  

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Dantè Angel Kilduff Sherriff by Caitlin

Caitlin shares with us precious Dantè Angel Kilduff Sherriff.

If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637

My son my last my only - when I found out I was pregnant it was a miracle as I was never supposed to be able to get pregnant ever. I was so excited I was going to be a mum. soon after I became homeless and was sleeping in my car for a little;  I soon found a room to rent and was starting to get everything I would need for a baby when I went for a ultrasound at 13 weeks.  I cried my eyes out, I was amazed that that was my baby so perfect.   I found out I was having a boy then as well as there was no way at missing it - even the doctor was 99% sure. I was so happy as on top of all the doctors saying I would never have children, I lost my partner 3 years ago and even though I was struggling with everything I wanted to make sure I had everything for my son. When I felt him kick for the first time it was amazing and every little thing would put a smile on my face.

When I was 20 weeks I went in for a ultrasound.  I was so excited to get to see him.  The doctor started checking everything and explained everything she was doing.  At the end she asked someone else to come look at something - afterwards she told me that my midwife would tell me if there was anything wrong.  I was a little worried but my next appointment was only a week away - the day before I got a phone call asking if I could go in for another ultrasound and they could do it the same day as my midwife appointment. The next day I went in to the hospital when they started checking everything, but when they got to his heart I knew something was wrong by the looks on their faces -  my heart sank. They took me to a room and asked if I wanted someone with me -  I said no as I had no one.  They then told me my son had 2 life threatening heart defects. When I left I sat in the car for 30 minutes crying.

I had to go back in the next day to see a heart surgeon:  they did more ultrasounds and I lay there for a hour while 4 different doctors looked at his heart and they then told me my son had  hypoplastic left heart syndrome and interrupted aortic arch. They asked me if I wanted to continue my pregnancy and if so explained that he would have to have heart surgery within the first week of being born and stay in hospital until he was 3 months and then have 4 more surgeries after that.  I knew that no matter what I wanted to hold my son,  I wanted to feel what lots of other mums get to  feel, so they transferred me to a hospital that had specialists so he could have as much chance as they could give him to live.   Soon after I became homeless again as the people I was living with where having problems.

On the 23 November 2014 I woke up and noticed I was bleeding.  I went in to the hospital and they found that my main waters had broken and they would like me to stay in hospital until my body went in to labour by itself they told me that while he was still inside me he would be fine.  That afternoon I didn't feel right, so they did an ultrasound to check on him:  as they were doing that his heart started slowing down.  I could see the screen and I watched my sons heart stop beating. Everything inside me went numb - all that was going through my head was that I had to get as much as I could so I can remember him things like feet and hand prints and photos.  They soon started my labour. I had already called his father and asked if he would come but he hung up on me -  I tried for a hour to call him but he wouldn't pick up

For 6 hours I screamed for him and cried at 6:55 am on the 24 November 2014 at 2 5 weeks 4 days gestation my son Dantè Angel Kilduff Sherriff was born.  I got to spent 12 hours with him and they were the most amazing hours of my life.  When I left I didn't have anywhere to go so I slept in the car out the front of his fathers house.  I then had to organise everything by myself while I was still homeless. His funeral was so beautiful.  I never cried until after everything was done.  It was the day I picked his ashes up  - thats when it all hit me.

Looking back i wouldn't change a thing as I'm never going to have another child.  I got to hold my child,  something I was told I would never get to do.  My name is Caitlin,  I'm 25 and my son was born was here and was loved every moment of his life and I will love him every second of mine. I love and miss you Dantè Angel Kilduff Sheriff.  

Thank you for letting me share my sons story so he can live on in the memories of others.  My angel forever I love you.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Six Years Is A Long Time by Dani

It has been six years since precious Jasper died.  In this blog, Dani shares with us her memories of what has occurred since Jasper died and her memories of the time surrounding his death.

Photo taken and copyrighted to Dani Hall
Every once in awhile, I remember how long it’s been. Days like today (18th November) – his 6th birthday, particularly mark the passing of time. Time really passes. It is not something we imagine. But the passing of time is both objective time and subjective time. But there is also personal time, which is measured in your relationship to memory.

When I stop to think about it – really think – so much has happened since his passing. We lost our house, went through fertility clinics to try and discover my infertility problems, we had a rainbow, we raised money for a camera kit for Heartfelt, I’ve lost 3 nephews – one to SIDS and two to prematurity, I’ve been blessed with 4 nieces, helped my mother-in-law find happiness with another partner and watched her get married, gotten a job as a sleep scientist, graduated university with a Bachelor of Justice and currently enrolled to complete a Master of Social Work, volunteered online with SANDS, enrolled my rainbow in prep, took a family road trip, watched Gangad pass, had two sisters get married, my rainbow had surgery and broke his leg, watched many friends get married and have babies and I’ve gotten 3 tattoos. And that’s just what I can think of, off the top of my head.

But then there’s the other side of time. Where it seems like it hasn’t passed at all. Where I think about his birth – rushing for an emergency caesarean and his admittance to the NICU. The strong yearning to see my baby – to hear him cry. The fond memory that we thought he was a girl right up until the moment he was born. The name we had picked out for him – Taryn – until he was born and we had to think of his name on the spot. The sheer relief that flooded through me when he was born, knowing he would be taken care of. The feeling of my heart plummeting when they told me to make the choice to continue care or remove him from life support. The knowledge that I had seen him only a few hours earlier and he was alive – kicking, responding to my touch – and knowing I’d never see that again. And in there hazily, the memory of my dad holding his oldest grandson, saying goodbye, telling him how proud he was of him. Getting wheeled back to my room after kissing him goodbye, knowing I’d never see him again. The sheer pain in my heart – hurting to move – hurting to breathe. The guilt for removing support. Preparing a cremation and funeral. Something no parent should have to do.

The overwhelming support and the text from my dad I will never forget “Dani, you should be very proud for creating a life and trying to give him the best chance possible – not many people can do that”. The foggy memories of loved ones visiting – and trying – really trying to connect but not being able to. The loss of friends.

The memories are right there, as though it all happened yesterday, but it’s been 6 years. 6 years ago we still thought he was a girl. 6 years ago we knew our baby would be born early we just didn't know when. 6 years ago I was still in ignorant bliss that our baby would survive. Little did we know in 24 hours our baby boy (surprise not a girl) would be born at 25+6 weeks and another 10 hours after that we would have to take him off life support and watch him go to heaven in my arms.

Time has taken away a lot of my innocence, given me a lot of grief, taken my son further and further away from me. But it has also given me many happy moments, blessed me with another son, made me who I am today.

“No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.” 
– Hakuri Murakami

If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637

Danielle Hall
Wife to Corey and Mumma to two boys: Jasper Rhys in heaven and Harrison Phillip Robert in her arms. Jasper passed away after PPROM at 23 weeks and birth at 26 weeks, surviving for 10 hours in the NICU unit. Currently completing a Master of Social Work with the goal to aid in the safety and protection of all children, because all children deserve to feel safe and loved.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Couldn't Live Without Tiffany

Tiff has written very honestly about the physical experience of the miscarriage which followed the death of her son from SIDS.  However, she herself says she is still too numb to be able to explore her emotions in a similar way. We hope that she will be able to do so in the future.

Three  days after Mother’s Day in 2014, I lost my 7 week old baby boy Wade to SIDS. Days and weeks went past and my husband and I were finding it hard to adjust to having two kids again and we were talking about having another:  not to replace our little man but to help us with our grief.

In September 2014 we found out we were pregnant again, but this time our fear was not losing our baby to SIDS -  never did we think of the unthinkable.
When I was 7 weeks pregnant I unfortunately went through trauma. I was checked and the baby and I were doing great.

At 12 weeks that all changed. I started bleeding very heavily. I went to the doctor and had an ultrasound done. They found I had a subchorionic hematoma (which is bleeding in the wall of the uterus) caused by the trauma. They told me it would either grow or shrink and it was a waiting game. My daughters witnessed everything during this pregnancy and I wished I could take it all away.

By 16 weeks my bleeding had died down to just spotting and we were so excited that everything was going well at this point.  But then it turned again.
By 17 weeks I ended up in hospital with gastro and even worse bleeding, to the point where I was literally standing in pools of blood.  I had frequent ultrasounds and the clot was growing. It was now at the point that there was more clot than baby. I was in and out of hospital all week when I suddenly went into labour at 18 weeks on the 10/01/15, only 9 days after my 21st birthday.

The birth was horrific, the worst birth I’d ever had. At 3cm dilated I was already pushing and my baby was holding on until my cervix shut on him. My husband was sitting by me through the whole thing and I told him to pick a name as we knew it was a boy. We named him Jax. They told us straight out that because I was 18 weeks,  no matter happened what he wouldn’t make it. He took his last breath in my husband’s arms. I was expecting a normal looking baby but to start with I was extremely overwhelmed and it made me realise it was bad news. I was hoping it was all a dream.

After the birth they told me I lost about half my blood volume and given that I’m anaemic it was more serious. They told me I needed a blood transfusion, and I turned out that I needed 3 bags. During my first bag I recall my monitors going off and a lot of people in my room when I finally came to they told me my blood pressure dropped dramatically. But I recall nothing as I passed out for a few moments.

That night I spent in the ICU. Constantly being monitored for blood loss and having my extra bags of blood. The next afternoon all I wanted was to go home with my husband and girls. The hospital was too much for me. They hospital refused to let me leave and I kicked up a storm. I couldn’t stand being there. I couldn’t stand the doctors saying I was good and I knew that I wasn’t and it was my heart that wasn’t good.
I feel all this happened just because I was so used to having 3 kids and the routine I was in I wanted to bring another baby into our world so badly. My eldest constantly asks for a new baby brother and to this day I still can’t give her that wish.
If you require support after reading this blog please contact
Sands on 13 000 72637

Tiffany Aghan

Wife to Luke and mummy to Tamara and Summer, in her arms, and Wade, Jax and Tristan, in heaven. I have recently completed certificates in law and in psychology and in the process of completing certificate in medicine. I am having time off at the moment to spend more time with my girls. But I am hoping one day I will continue where I want to go.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

What are the Odds? by Emma

Jess writes for Sands again about her precious Emma.

"I didn’t notice when her movements slowed, I didn’t notice when they stopped completely."

Adam sitting next to Emma's special tree

100,000 to 1. The likelihood of a baby in utero catching and succumbing to the kind of infection my daughter caught. At 9am that Tuesday morning her heartbeat was strong, her movements were frequent. At 11:30am it felt as if she was breakdancing in my belly, was that the last time I felt her move? By the next morning there was nothing, just stillness. 

I had spent the day relaxing, after straining my back my Mother-in-law was taking care of my then 19 month old little boy for the day.

I didn’t notice when her movements slowed, I didn’t notice when they stopped completely. I didn’t know that within hours she had become completely septic from an infection that came from my body but was in no way my fault, or preventable. 100,000 to 1 my doctor told me. The number is astronomical, inconceivable! For so long I thought, how can I be that unlucky?

But somebody has to be that one:  Why not me? What makes me an exception to the number? My strength? My resilience? My ability to ‘look on the bright side?’ So far I’ve not seen a bright side and some days my strength is nowhere to be found but I am trying to make my daughter’s life mean something. I will forever have a profound bond with my son who has gets me through the ‘fog’ on a daily basis. My husband and I have such a deep understanding and respect for each other, nothing can tear us apart.

Emma has given me the courage and confidence to start studying which has prompted me to start moving on, to begin thinking about what I want to be when I ‘grow up.’ I want to make a difference in kid’s lives, I want to make every day their best day ever!

I want to be Adam and Emma’s Mum and I want them to always be connected. I want to give them siblings and I want to teach them about our beautiful angel in Heaven, always smiling down on us.                                                                                              

If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637

Jessica Lawless

Jessica lives in Victoria. She is the wife to Shane and a Mum to 2 beautiful kids - Adam, nearly 2 and Emma, born sleeping August 2014.

I like to practice yoga, cook, read and spend all my time being a SAHM with Adam. My family and friends are my whole world, there is barley a distinction between the two.

I hope by being so open and honest about my experiences I can help raise awareness and provide support for others.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Jeremy's Story - Alisha

Alisha shared the poem she wrote for Jeremy which was published on August 31st.  She now shares with us precious Jeremy's story.

'At my husband’s insistence we had a very small funeral with only immediate family.  It was the smallest coffin I’ve ever seen, but it was decorated with gorgeous flowers and the blue elephant that reminded me of him and it was just perfect.'

After three years of infertility and countless treatments, my husband and I were finally successful in conceiving thanks to a round of IVF.  I was so ecstatic to finally be pregnant; I never dreamt it wouldn’t result in my family dream coming true.  I had already bought everything I needed, decorated the perfect nursery, and had the big scary 20 week scan and everything was more or less how it should be.  There was a strange comment about low amnio fluid, so my obstetrician suggested we come and see him the following week, just to put my mind at ease.  Neither he nor us had any idea that the next time he saw us he would be telling us he couldn’t find a heartbeat and then organising for me to be induced the following day.

My husband wouldn’t really acknowledge that we had a child, to him this was just another setback in our journey to become parents, so we just needed to get the medical part out of the way and get on with our lives.  As a result he wasn’t really there for me at the hospital, preferring to sit in a chair on the other side of the room rather than hold my hand as I gave birth to our son.  He refused to look at him, and I’m not sure if it was the drugs, his attitude, the exhaustion, the shock, or his pressure to leave the hospital, but as a result I didn’t really hold my son.  I didn’t spend any real time with him, didn’t take photos or anything to remember him.  Instead I left him with the nurses and headed home so my husband could go to the gym, and at the time that seemed like acceptable behaviour.

I think after such a long journey to conceive my son and only being 21 weeks, it was as if I didn’t feel entitled to grieve - these things happen and you just need to focus on what comes next.  I had already been through so much grieving for the children I couldn’t conceive over the last three years; this was just another part of this journey.  I felt like a fraud saying my son was stillborn!  To me stillborn children only happened to the poor women who had to carry their babies full term and then they died.  Even though I had just gone through labour and delivered my son naturally it was so hard for me to think of myself as being in the same category as them – what they go through must be the most devastating thing in the world.

I am so grateful to the wonderful family and friends who came to visit me the next day and who messaged and sent so many beautiful flowers.  All of the support and how upset they all were helped me realise the severity of what I had actually just been through, and to help me see that I was a Mother and I had lost my child – it wasn’t just another medical procedure.  Once that sunk in I felt sick with guilt that I hadn’t spent more time with him, we hadn’t even named him.  My husband wasn’t interested in naming him and refused to let me use any of the names on our list.  I had always liked the name “Jeremy” and when I looked up the meaning it was “God will raise him and God will set him free”.  I’m not a religious person, but this just fitted perfectly.  After that moment I started to get selfish and do what I needed to do to honour my son and how much he meant to me. 

Work was amazingly supportive and gave me as much time off as I needed so I spent my first few days reading other’s stories - the first story I found was actually a DJ from a local radio station that I had listened to most mornings since I was young and it gave me so much comfort and hope to know I wasn’t alone.  This can be such an isolating time, especially when you don’t have partner support, and while I knew of people who had suffered miscarriages, I didn’t know of anyone who had ever had a stillborn - I got so much comfort from strangers generous enough to share their stories.  I then focused on planning the perfect funeral and found great healing in writing.  The wonderful funeral director had angel babies of her own and was heavily involved in SANDS and she gave me some amazing books that really helped.  She could also see that my husband was not in the same place as I was and managed us very well so she could offer me so much support and guidance.  Through her I organised for myself, my parents and my Mother in Law to be able to spend some time with Jeremy.  I know this meant a lot to all of them.  Jeremy was the first Grandchild for both sets of parents, and they really appreciated being able to see him, hold him and say goodbye.

At my husband’s insistence we had a very small funeral with only immediate family.  It was the smallest coffin I’ve ever seen, but it was decorated with gorgeous flowers and the blue elephant that reminded me of him and it was just perfect.  I read the a poem I had written for him, others spoke and I created the perfect soundtrack.  A good friend sent a bag of gorgeous baby blue helium balloons to my house that morning which we released after the ceremony.  At my insistence we followed the funeral with a large wake to celebrate Jeremy and what he meant to me. I was so touched that over 70 people came to the wake to celebrate Jeremy, his significance and how much he meant to all of us. 

At the time I passed off my husband’s behaviour as just his way of grieving, but the death of Jeremy was the last straw for him and he wasn’t prepared to go through any more to get our family.  As a result he left me a week later. 

On August 31 it will be 3 years since Jeremy was born sleeping.  I like to think his passing was the greatest gift a child could ever give a parent.  I can now see my marriage would not have survived regardless and Jeremy has given me a clean break and a second chance at happiness.  I still have good and bad days, and think of Jeremy at some point during most days - I just hope he is proud of the life I am living thanks to his sacrifice.


If you require support after reading this blog please contact

Sands on 13 000 72637

Alisha Burns

Alisha is a 35 year old kiwi marketer living in Melbourne and mother of one angel, Jeremy, who was stillborn at 21 weeks in 2012.  Alisha loves exploring the world, impressing people with her ability to walk in 6 inch stilettos, anything Disney, experimenting in the kitchen, pretending she can sing at karaoke. One day she would love a French Bulldog to complete her menagerie if she isn't lucky enough to have children of her own.